How to Bet on Football
How to Bet on Football
How to bet on Football
While Major League Baseball calls itself the American pastime, that's outdated. True, baseball did dominate the U.S. sport landscape for four generations or so. But football has far surpassed baseball as the most popular sport in the USA. And one big reason why? Gambling, especially since the explosion of the Internet. For those newcomers, out there, here's a tutorial on how to bet on football, the NFL in particular, and some football betting tips.
Sometimes you can take advantage of a sportsbook on a certain line in a game in a sport that the book isn't as focused upon. There's only so much homework a site like BetOnline can do. In college football, for example, there are often 65-games plus per weekend and you can find "smart" lines. In the NFL, that's not going to happen because the NFL is the most-wagered sport in the USA.
Betting on football is quite easy on the basics, which are point spreads, totals and moneylines. A point spread is a number that a sportsbook designates not to project a winner or loser by a certain score but to draw the most action possible on both the favorite and the underdog. Ideally, the book gets 50 percent on each side because then there are no heavy losses and the book wins on the fees that bettors must pay to place a bet.
For the most part, an NFL point spread will range from a pick'em (which means there is no favorite or underdog) to 13 points. In rare occasions, you could see a team be more than a two-touchdown favorite over another but it's rare. While some teams are clearly better than others, all the players are professionals. Most point spreads will hover around 3 or 7 points because the two main ways to score in a football game are a field goal or a touchdown. A half-point is often added to point spreads to assure there is no tie, which is called a push. If that happens, the bet is returned.
So, let's say the New England Patriots are home to the Dallas Cowboys; playing at home is considered to be worth 2-3 points if all else is equal. You could see a point spread of New England -3.5/Dallas +3.5. Thus, from a betting standpoint the score at kickoff is Dallas 3.5, New England 0. If you bet on the Cowboys +3.5 and they lose by 3 points or less, then it's a winner. The Patriots must win by at least 4 points to cover the spread if you back that side. Sportsbooks will offer "alternate point spreads" but the payout is slightly different.
While betting on the point spread simply pays back what you wagered, moneyline betting can offer more value at times. In that scenario, it doesn't matter what the final score is, just that you chose the winning side. You will win more on an underdog in this case. For example, in the Patriots-Cowboys matchup with the 3.5-ponit spread above, New England would likely be around -180 on the moneyline and Dallas +160. All moneylines are based on a $100 wager. So, a $100 bet on Dallas earns $160 with a Cowboys win. But it would take a bet of $180 on the Patriots to return $100.
Finally, totals are simply wagering on over or under the number a sportsbook posts for the combined point totals scored by the teams -- that would include any overtime points if there is one. Most NFL totals are between 40-57. A low total would be two very good defensive teams or perhaps a game in inclement weather. An indoor game between two excellent offenses would have a high total. Both the under and over bets on a total are attached a moneyline, usually both the same -110 price. So, you bet $110 to win $100 on either side.
The most obvious football betting tip to know is to pay attention to NFL injury reports. No sport is more affected by injuries. A starting quarterback who might not play has the biggest effect on a point spread, moneyline and total.
Also, home underdogs at either 3.5 or 7.5 points are often smart bets. Those half-points are very important because so many games end up decided by a touchdown or field goal. On the flip side, if you are betting on a home favorite, use an alternate spread of giving 2.5 points or 6.5 points to the underdog if the regular lines are 3.5 or 7.5. Finally, teams coming off a bye week generally have a big advantage over one that played the previous week because the bye week team is rested, healthier and could prepare for the opponent for two full weeks.